This August the Nord Stream Race will see five international teams compete in five identical ClubSwan 50 race boats on a 1,000 nautical mile stage race through the Baltic Sea. Starting in Kiel, Germany, on 25 August, the route will take the competitors to stopovers in Copenhagen, Stockholm and Helsinki, with the finish taking place in Russia’s most spectacular city, St Petersburg, on 7 September.
It’s not the first time the Nord Stream Race has taken place, but this is being billed as the Nord Stream Race “Reloaded”. Firstly, the event will be using a fleet of five identical ClubSwan 50s, a brand new Juan Kouyoumdjian design where the hulls, the fit-out, the rigs and even the sails are all one-design.
The other big change is the connection with the Sailing Champions League and the National Sailing Leagues that feed into it. Since it was introduced just four years ago, the concept of an inter-club championship has taken off like wildfire. It started in Germany and has spread across Europe and to other continents since then. The winning clubs from the 2016 season have been invited to compete in the Nord Stream Race this summer, with the champions of Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Russia now training up their sailors in readiness for the long-distance adventure.
The five clubs set to take part are Deutscher Touring Yacht Club from Germany, Frederikshavn Sejlklub from Denmark, Cape Crow Yacht Club from Sweden, Nyländska Jaktklubben from Finland and Lord of the Sail – Europe from Russia. Each of the five sailing clubs will be sending a crew with ten of their best sailors.
One of the biggest challenges will be to make sure that the predominantly inshore, short-course specialists from the National Sailing Leagues make a strong transition from J/70 sportsboat racing to handling the power of a ClubSwan 50 keelboat in what could prove to be very tough offshore sailing conditions. It’s a particularly big challenge for the landlocked Deutscher Touring Yacht Club from the south of Germany near Munich. The five young representatives from the DTYC will be joined by some offshore veterans from another club, according to team manager Michael Tarabochia. “"Through our cooperation with the Bremen Coat of Arms Sailing Club (SKWB), we will support our crew with the addition of three yachtsmen with lots of offshore experience,” he says.
Three-time Olympic Champion and twice winner of the America’s Cup, Jochen Schümann is the president of the ClubSwan 50 class and predicts a very close battle through the Baltic this summer. “We assume that the clubs will have at least two to three professionals on board who have experience with boats of this size. The boats are extremely agile and sail nice and quickly thanks to the 3.50m long and 3,450kg keel, even at higher wind speeds. It’s going to be a challenge to drive the boat day and night at its full potential and at optimum trim for the duration of the race legs.”
Schümann emphasises the need for experience within the team, and to take maximum advantage of any training sessions between now and the start of the race. "I think it is important that the teams give themselves an opportunity to prepare well. In Kiel, both training days and inshore races are planned so that at least a short preparation period is possible. In addition to the training and becoming familiar with the powerful loads, it’s important that each team has two to three experienced, match-fit pros as well as a professional navigator who knows the Baltic Sea. With a 3.50 m draft and an average of 10 knots of speed, navigating safely through the Swedish and Finnish archipelagos is a real challenge."